Decking is one of the most popular choices when it comes to creating an area in the garden. But it can get very expensive, especially when you have a larger area to cover. At a time when we’re all looking to save money, I’ve created this guide on some brilliant decking alternatives that look great but won’t break the bank.
Table of Contents
The Cost Of Decking – Why Is It So Expensive?
For wooden decking, you’ll be looking to pay at least £100 per square metre; that’s some serious dough if you have a bigger area to cover. The price could be even higher if you go for composite decking which can rack up a bill of more than £130 per square metre and if you’re going for the higher end stuff, you might easily exceed the £200 per square metre mark.
But why on earth is this such an expensive option?
Well, for starters, you’re looking at the cost of materials. Since they need to be incredibly hard wearing and able to resist the elements, your decking materials need to be of the best quality. With quality comes expense and it isn’t only the timber planks you have to consider. There is the cost of the frame, the base, things like screws and other fittings.
On top of that, unless you plan to install the decking yourself, you’ll need to factor in labour charges. This is one of the main reasons that decking installation can be so costly; your contractor will really have their work cut out for them and this doesn’t come for free.
What To Use Instead Of Decking
If you’ve got your heart set on decking but don’t currently have the bank balance to get it, don’t worry. There are actually a lot of viable alternatives that can be just as practical, durable and aesthetically pleasing. So, with an open mind, let’s take a look at some of the best decking alternatives.
Now, I’m starting with an option that could cost just as much as decking if you choose the wrong type of pavers. However, if you opt for concrete pavers then you will find that you save a serious amount of money.
What’s more, the installation costs are considerably lower since this type of paving slab can be laid on a base of sand so there’s no serious preparation work involved. After the installation, the maintenance for paving is far lower than decking so it’ll be more cost effective in the long run as well.
When you think about decking alternatives, your mind may not instantly be drawn to gravel but I think it’s worth considering. That’s largely because it’s so much more affordable but it also isn’t as complicated to install and is a lot faster.
Of course, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you were hoping to create a deck to use as a seating space, gravel may not be the best alternative as it can be soft or uneven making it difficult to place garden furniture on.
On the other hand, if you wanted to create an area purely for decorative purposes then gravel may be suitable.
You should also keep in mind that it’s not impossible to use gravel for practical areas especially if you employ the use of gravel grids which will create a more stable surface. Just make sure that you use the right type of gravel; something like pea gravel is generally the best option for seating areas or parts of the garden that will be walked on frequently.
Self Binding Gravel
While we’re on the subject of gravel, I’d like to mention self binding gravel which is great for things like pathways but also areas that may otherwise have been decked.
For anyone that’s looking for something easy and quick to install, self binding gravel will exceed your expectations. It’s just like normal gravel but has a lot of fine dust particles in the mix so that, when you add moisture and compact it, everything binds together.
The only real downside to this type of gravel is that it’s not the most pleasant thing in the world to walk on. You’ll easily feel it under your feet and it can get quite dusty when there’s not a lot of rain.
But while it might not be the most even or attractive surface choice, self binding gravel is very durable and ideal for spots where you need something long lasting and that doesn’t require too much maintenance.
I wouldn’t recommend using bark if you’re trying to create a seating area or somewhere for outdoor dining as they’re not the most stable or level surface. However, if you want a more affordable alternative to a deck then they are a great idea.
As well as not costing the earth, bags of bark chippings are nowhere near as lengthy or complex to install as decking. What’s more, this is a great choice if you want to take on a DIY project as there’s really not a lot of skill involved so there’s no need to call in the pros.
Imprinted concrete is really popular right now and for good reason. It’s durable, attractive and versatile and I think it could be a viable alternative to decking. The idea is that the concrete is poured and then a pattern imprinted into it. And what’s really good about it is that you can lay it on pretty much any surface whereas this isn’t the case with decking.
I also love that poured concrete allows you to really create a space that’s unique to you since there are lots of colour and pattern options.
Compared to some of the other options on this list, imprinted concrete is going to be more pricey. However, when you compare it to the cost of decking, you probably won’t end up paying as much.
Rubber matting is relatively similar to paving although it’s a different material and markedly easier to install. This is a brilliant option for areas where your kids might play and you can purchase the mats in various thicknesses.
I love this option because of how affordable it is but you have to consider the aesthetic value is nowhere near as high as something like pavers or imprinted concrete. For practical purposes and durability, it’s fantastic but don’t expect miracles when it comes to creating anything beautiful.
Pallets – The Closest Alternative To Decking
If you’ve looked through all of the above ideas and just can’t get the look of a beautiful timber deck out of your mind, all is not lost. Pallets are a great way to create decking without that hefty price tag and, depending on the amount of work you’re willing to put in, they can look just as good.
You’ll need to get your hands on enough pallets for the job and this typically isn’t difficult as there are lots of people getting rid of them on things like Facebook Marketplace and eBay. One pallet is usually around a square metre so it’s also easy enough to figure out how many you’ll need.
I’d start with a gravel base as this provides stability. Then you can screw your pallets together and lay them down. Top it all off with some boards and you’re good to go. The amazing thing is this is so much easier than regular decking and something that you can do as a weekend DIY project.
However, there’s a reason that this is a more cost effective solution and that’s because pallet decking is never going to have the durability or stability of a normal deck. The longevity of your deck will be further reduced if there’s a lot of rain or sun. But as a temporary measure, these are one of the best alternatives to decking I could think of.
Decking might look great but it’s pretty expensive and takes time and skill to install. So, you may be wondering what the best alternatives to decking are and the good news is that there are quite a few. It all depends on the look you’re going for and how much effort you want to put in but things like pavers, gravel and even pallets are brilliant decking alternatives.